By Stephen Brownlow
I was new to the desert and didn’t know what to expect, other than what I’d always heard: “It’s a dry heat.” I parked my car at the base of the mountain and looked over my supplies: backpack (check); copious amounts of water (check); sunscreen (check). I opened the car door and stepped onto the scorching-hot pavement. I thought the soles of my boots might melt before I reached the trail.
The climb was hot—very hot. I paused in the shade of a saguaro cactus, an unexpected but welcome relief. I drank water though I wasn’t thirsty. Later, I came to a fork and I didn’t know which trail to take. The left trail appeared to lead back down the mountain. The right trail seemed it might lead to the top. I had to decide. I wanted to reach the mountaintop, so I turned right.
It eventually became clear I had made the right decision. When I reached the summit, I could see for miles in every direction. I noticed I could even see the fork in the trail where I decided to turn right. The beautiful views were rewarding, but they were not the reason I came.
I found a rock in the shade, sat down, and lowered my head in prayer.
“God, what does the future hold for me and my family? Help me to know your will.”
I waited for an answer or a revelation, but there was only silence . . . and a hot breeze that wisped across my sweaty skin.
Twenty minutes later, I heard the crunching of gravel as another hiker approached. An old woman in tennis shoes appeared; she walked briskly and carried only one bottle of water. She gave me a brief look that clearly said, “Why are you sitting up here?” Quickly, she was off to hike the rest of the trail, and I knew she would reach her destination. Feeling self-conscious, I shouldered my backpack full of extra water and prepared to trudge back down the mountain.
Before setting off, I paused for one last look, focusing on the trail that veered left, which I could now see clearly. I followed it with my eyes and discovered—to my surprise—it led to the top of another nearby mountain. Both trails led to a mountaintop!
I suddenly realized there was only one thing that would’ve kept me from reaching a mountaintop that day: indecision. If I hadn’t chosen a path, I would have still been stuck at the fork. Each trail was different, but both reached a summit. I had my answer; it was time to get out of the shade of indecision and start moving on the trail of fruitfulness.
Stephen Brownlow serves as a full-time resident at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona, where he has held roles in pastoral care, kids, and safety & security. He has a wife, Brittany, and a 3-year-old son, Jordan.